US Soccer council member removed after controversial speech

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Some members of the United States team kneel during the playing of the national anthem before a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Canada, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

CHICAGO – The U.S. Soccer Federation’s Athlete Council removed one of its members Sunday, a day after incendiary comments he made at the federation’s annual general meeting against removing an anti-kneeling policy.

The Athlete Council called out Seth Jahn's comment at the meeting Saturday, saying they “moved beyond a difference of opinion on policy, and into disinformation and offensive rhetoric.”

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At a meeting Sunday, the council voted to remove Jahn for violation of its prohibited conduct policy.

Jahn, who played for the U.S. seven-a-side ParaOlympic team at the 2015 Parapan American Games, spoke against repeal of what was known as Policy 604-1, put in place in response to U.S. women’s team star Megan Rapinoe kneeling in support of Colin Kaepernick.

The USSF board of directors voted to repeal the policy last June, a decision the online annual meeting affirmed Saturday by 71.34% voting in favor of repeal.

“I’m sure I’m going to ruffle some feathers with what I’m about to say, especially given the athletes council that I’m on, but given the evolution of our quote unquote, progressive culture where everything offends everybody, those willing to take a knee for our anthem don’t care about defending half of our country and when they do so, then I don’t have too much concern in also exercising my First Amendment right,” Jahn said before the vote, pointing out his own Native American heritage.

Claiming he was citing FBI statistics, Jahn said “95% of deaths in black communities come at the hands of another black man.” He also veered into slavery, citing dubious statistics, and claimed every athlete who takes a knee during the anthem disrespects the soldiers who fought against slavery in the Civil War.

“I keep hearing how our country was founded on the backs of slaves, even though approximately only 8% of the entire population even owned slaves,” he said. “Every race in the history of mankind has been enslaved by another demographic at some point time."

He suggested athletes who wish to take a knee do so on their own individual platforms but not while representing the U.S. on a soccer field.

Federal President Cindy Parlow Cone followed Jahn and urged repeal.

“This is not about disrespecting the flag or about disrespecting the military,” she said. “This is about the athletes and our staff’s right to peacefully protest racial inequalities and police brutality.”

Becky Sauerbrunn, the captain of the U.S. women's national team and a member of the Athlete Council, issued a statement disputing Jahn's claims.

“Disagree with it though I may, Seth is entitled to his opinion — he is, however, not entitled to his own set of facts nor do I think he should use said facts in a way that misinforms and obfuscates the real issues at hand. For example, crime in the black community has nothing to do with the fact that Black people are disproportionately more than likely to die at the hands of police than any other group of people in the country," Sauerbrunn wrote.

Members of the women's team who had kneeled for the anthem announced last week that they would no longer do so, preferring instead to focus on projects within the team and their communities to fight systemic racism.

The athlete’s council said in a statement Sunday that Jahn “violated the prohibited conduct’s policy section on harassment, which prohibits racial or other harassment based upon a person’s protected status (race), including any verbal act in which race is used or implied in a manner which would make a reasonable person uncomfortable."

The council said it “wants to be unequivocal in its condemnation of the statements that Mr. Jahn made yesterday.”

Before he was removed, Jahn tweeted out a statement saying “that my positions are in no way representative of U.S. Soccer or the U.S. national extended teams,” adding that he was in no way minimizing the “horrors of slavery.”

However, he also wrote: “I will never apologize for the statements I made and will never bow down to the mob mentality of intimidation, bullying or the social media warrior’s gestapo tactics," he wrote. “I’m embarrassed to represent a hypocritical federation that conducts a complete assault on diversity of thought without even seeking clarifying statements from me in their smear campaign.


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